In today’s article, Grace Myers offers advice on an important aspect of business and freelance work that many writers neglect: emails.
Email makes sharing information cheaper, faster and easier, and has transformed the way that we do business. More importantly, email has changed our business relationships. It’s now the most common way to communicate, ask questions, mentor and build your personal “brand.” Email is how we welcome, motivate, engage, inform and recognize achievement.
Yet, many of us dread a full inbox and consider emails the most headache-inducing aspect of our work. This isn’t surprising – it’s a venue where terrible writing and even rudeness pass far too easily.
Take this example string of emails:
Subject: BP Report Needed!!
Sent By: Karen@xcorp.com at 9.30 AM
Please send me the marketing best practices report ASAP. Thx.
Subject: Re: BP Report Needed!!
Sent by: Tim@xcorp.com at 2.30 PM
Subject: Re: BP Report Needed!!
Sent by: Karen@xcorp.com at 2.50 PM
To: Tim@xcorp.com, Lisa@xcorp.com
Thanks for the PDF. I understand you’re currently very busy with a sales project, but I need the marketing BP report to be formatted to the layout guidelines sent to you last week. This won’t work for my upcoming meeting.
Karen, the writer, focuses solely on her immediate needs – getting the report – and not on giving background information, specificity or using this opportunity to build their working relationship. When there is a small problem, she immediately brings in a supervisor in on the conversation without any introduction or explanation.
These types of emails not only slow productivity, they create tense workplaces and strain working relationships.
A Little Effort Goes A Long Way
When you take the time to write clear, thoughtful emails, you are more likely to accomplish your short-term goal (getting the task done), as well as your long-term goals (building affable and productive working relationships).
Sound like lots of work? Well, it can be. Writing effective emails is difficult – it requires planning and editing. But it is worth that effort. There’s a significant return; when you write better emails, you’ll write fewer of them, get things done faster, improve relationships and receive better emails into your inbox.
Take this example email:
Subject: Re: July – August Best Practices Report
Sent by: Karen@xcorp.com at 9.30 AM
Do you remember the marketing July – August best practices report you spearheaded for your team?
I have a meeting with Jim on Monday about the division’s marketing strategies. I’d like to incorporate the information from your report. Maybe even brag a little bit about your team’s success!
Could you please format the report to the layout guidelines we agreed upon last week (attached)? I need the formatted version by the end of the day tomorrow.
Thanks for your leadership on this! Looking forward to touching base with you after the meeting.
This email is certainly longer, but it gets the job done straight away. The recipient, Tim, feels respected and valued, strengthening their relationship. The email also gives Tim the big picture of what is happening and the specifics he needs to get the task done well and on time. In fact, Tim will probably get this done right after finishing the email.
You may feel like you don’t have the time to work on your emails, seeing them as unimportant when fighting for time against bigger, more pressing projects and pressures. But the rewards are more than worth it.
How do you make sure you write productive and efficient emails? Have you struggled with receiving poor emails in the past? How have you coped? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Image courtesy of ProBlogger.
Grace Myers writes for corporations and small business, specializing in corporate communications and employee engagement. She blogs at Better Writing in Business. She’s an avid reader, traveler and Twins fan. Grace received a BA in English from the University of Notre Dame and a MA in Contemporary Literature from the University of York in the UK.